25 Days and Not Really Counting

It’s been 25 days since our family has eaten out at a restaurant. We decided to take a challenge: no restaurant meals for the month of September. That’s a significant goal for us. On average, we were eating out (or ordering pizza) two, maybe three times each week.

This bright idea came after a trip downtown to eat lunch with my husband during summer vacation. We ate somewhere we’d eaten before, which usually makes me relax a little about our younger son’s nut allergy. Internally I think, “He was fine the last time we we ate here. He should be fine this time.” By fine, I mean their kitchen prepares food that is safe for him to eat – no nuts in his meal, nut products in the oil or foods that have touched nuts on shared plates, etc.

But as he sat in the booth across from me, I noticed my younger son stopped eating after a while. He looked as if he was going to curl up in the booth.

“You feel okay?” I asked.

“No. My stomach hurts.”

“How’s your mouth?” I asked, looking at my husband.

“Not so good,” our son replied. He’s four years old, so his ability to assess a reaction on his own is still minimal.

I pulled out his EpiPen, handed it to my husband and we all stopped eating. For those who don’t have a child with allergies, this might seem over-the-top. He complains of a stomach ache and a feeling in his mouth and I immediately think he’s having an allergic reaction?

If it were my older son, I wouldn’t be as concerned by the comments that his stomach aches or that his mouth feels funny. My older son doesn’t have a life-threatening allergy to nuts. But my younger son does and when we he makes a comment like that after he eats food that *could* have contained nuts (even though I’d confirmed it didn’t with the wait staff) we need to be alert.

He went to the bathroom with my husband and older son. And, he promptly vomited. Thankfully he began to feel better. Was this rejection from his stomach a “mild” reaction to nuts we couldn’t see? Was it just a tummy ache? Was it because he’d had some sweet lemonade? We had no way of knowing. We paid for our bill ($50), left our plates full of food and went to a nearby grocery store to buy him a banana and some cheese.

After this experience, I wanted to take a break from the underlying stress at restaurants, the constant worry if the food is truly nut-free. And, part of me wanted to see if we could save the $440 or so we spend at restaurants each month.

Here we are at day 25 of restaurant-free eating and it’s been amazing. I’m proud that we’ve made it and I’m proud of the benefits I’ve seen as a result.

I’ll share more about why later in the week.

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9 Responses to 25 Days and Not Really Counting

  1. juliesteed says:

    Liz, that is an amazing goal! So impressed with and proud of you for doing this. There are so many benefits to eating at home. Saving money and having more control over what is on your plate are definitely two of the big ones! I’ve found that we usually spend $5+ for my kids to eat bread and cheese – and they come home ready for more food. Though I do admit that ordering pizza is one of my favorite luxuries!

  2. Joanna Nesbit says:

    I like this goal a whole bunch. We eat out a lot less than we used to because now that the kids eat adult portions, we can’t afford to pay the bill, but we can do better. I’m thinking we’re going to try it, and maybe substitute new recipes in our house. The other night I made paella for the first time, and it was a reminder that it’s not hard to eat different (good) food in your own home.

  3. Andrea says:

    So glad your boy was okay in the end. What a great goal, even if you didn’t have to worry about life-threatening allergies. I’m horrified to think of how often we eat out (so I won’t even try to quantify it). In terms of money wasted, excess calories, etc., it’s crazy. When I was a kid, we went out to eat maybe two or four times a year. It was a special occassion and a big event. For my kids, it’s an almost-weekly ho-hum sort of thing (not to mention two or three takeout pizzas!). Basically, I am just sick of and bored with cooking. Maybe I’ll give your month of no eating out a try and re-learn how to cook (after soccer season ends!).

  4. Jesaka Long says:

    It must be extremely stressful to have a little one with such an allergy. Although my soy and gluten allergies are *no where* near life-threatening, it’s driven me to cook more at home. Then, with freelancing, it was also a way to save money. Now going out to each is such a special treat, I’m really picky about the restaurant. It’s got to live up to the occasion!

  5. Liz says:

    Yes, Jesaka, this goal was indeed inspired by the freelance life here, too! I agree that it will make it all the more important to have a special place when we do finally go out again :).

  6. Liz says:

    Andrea – great to “see” you! Indeed – just glad to have Eli okay and realized that the meals out aren’t much of a “treat” in the end for us if it’s causing stress. Our boys have become the same way about the “expectation” of eating out. This month has been a great experience for them, and I think they are actually better about eating more of what we cook now. Before there was more balking at what we served at home, and I’m wondering if it’s the adjustment in diet to less fried, fatty foods. More to come in my next post :)!

  7. Liz says:

    Joanna, the goal seemed HUGE on September 1. I honestly thought we’d be good if we made it to the 14th. Now that were at the 25th I see it’s really a matter of our mindset.

  8. Liz says:

    Yes, the benefits are adding up, Julie. Things I hadn’t even realized are becoming bonuses as a result of this choice!

  9. This is an excellent goal and way to go for making it happen! Money saved and stress bypassed. I’m so glad Eli’s reaction wasn’t worse but, geez, how scary. I can only imagine the pins and needles every single time you go out. I’m looking forward to reading more about your experiments with eating in. We struggle with this, too. Especially on nights when one of the kids has an activity. Cooking every night when everyone’s melting down or coming in from a rehearsal or practice over-the-top hungry can be stressful and daunting. We also have the expectation from the kids that we’ll be going out to dinner when the going gets tough. Would love to make it into more of a special event. Thanks for sharing this, Liz!

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